He’s lost half a team to State of Origin duties but Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett is counting his blessings three key players remain at the NRL club.
The Broncos will take on Wests Tigers at Suncorp Stadium on Friday without Queensland players Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday, Josh McGuire, Matt Gillett, Darius Boyd and Origin newcomer Corey Oates.
Due to an Origin selection ban slapped on them for breaking curfew at an emerging players camp earlier in the year halves Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt remain at Red Hill however, along with hooker Andrew McCullough.
Bennett says it can’t be understated how vital keeping that playmaking spine together during the Origin period will be for the club.
“That’s really important for us,” Bennett said.
“Macca’s still there as well, so that’s good. Jordan Kahu has played a lot of fullback for us. Key positions we’re pretty well covered.”
The Broncos head into the game after their one-point loss in another thrilling clash with North Queensland in Townsville.
But they hold a fantastic record against the Tigers having won their past six clashes against them and 19 of 24 overall.
Back-rower Jaydn Su’a and Tevita Pangai Junior will make their NRL debuts while Adam Blair has been handed the captaincy a fortnight after he was labelled “dirty” by Broncos great Gorden Tallis.
Bennett says Blair’s elevation is about nothing more than the Kiwi international being the best man for the job.
“Adam’s extremely mature and does his best every time he plays,” Bennett said.
“Leads from the front and that’s what I was looking for.”
The Tigers head north without NSW Origin duo Robbie Farah or Aaron Woods.
Kevin Naiqama and Sauaso Sue have been named to play as the Tigers aim to back up last weekend’s win over Newcastle.
KEY MATCH STATS – Brisbane v Wests Tigers
* Brisbane are six from six this year against teams in the bottom eight. Wests Tigers are none from five against teams in the top eight.
* The Tigers have won just five of 20 matches without NSW prop Aaron Woods since his debut in 2011.
* Brisbane half Ben Hunt has won his past nine matches at Suncorp Stadium, scoring six tries and setting up 14 in those matches.